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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   4 May [1861]1

Muswell Hill | N

Saturday May 4.

My dear Sir.

I trust you will excuse my long delay in replying to your last but I have been very busy and your queries could not all be answered by myself.—2 I enclose some replies.—3 I am not quite sure as to what you call the first pruning   will you let me know as it is desirable that I should be quite certain of your meaning.—

I was surprized at the Number of tail feathers in the Malays.4

I will send the answers to your other querys as I can observe them as I do not like sending you my impressions merely.

I am collecting facts respecting the Antwerps or flying birds of Belgium—. I have two volumes of a periodical devoted to the Pursuit—and have some of the very best birds. I have requested T T Parker Esq who has a number of these birds to send you an egg just chipped5   would you be good enough to let me know what you think of the cerebral development in that stage.— I thought you would like to have the bird in that state as it would complete your series.—6 These birds fly distances we have no idea of in this country   their speed for short distances is a league a minute!!! The following is the account of a match from Bordeaux to Verviers.—

Birds liberated at Bordeaux Saturday July 22. at 412 AM

Temperature high. Wind NW

Distant direct 186 leagues.

1st bird arrived at Verviers on Sunday 23 July at 12.30

2nd on Monday 24 at 6 54 A.M

Mr Brent wrote some papers in the Field some time since on this subject, but I find his papers of little use to me.7 I want facts and not theories.

Mr Huxley asked me to publish the paper in his journal,8 but I am so busy that I do not think I can get it ready for the printer for some little time, so that if you wish to see it I can let you have the Memorandum in the first instance—

I am glad to see you using the Field—9 With regard to your last Query.10 I have seen [moping] semi idiotic polish but as a general rule those I kept had no particular alteration of mental characters   some are as savage as a game cock.—11 one I had would fight my hand just as a savage game cock will, if teased—

Believe me | Very truly Yours | W B Tegetmeier

C Darwin Esq.

I enclose two neck feathers from Duckwing and Black red Game

CD annotations

1.1 I trust … sending 3.2] crossed pencil
1.3 I am … meaning.— 1.4] cross in margin, brown crayon
3.2 you … series.— 4.6] crossed ink
4.4 would you … stage.— 4.5] cross in margin, brown crayon
6.1 Mr Brent … teased— 8.4] crossed ink
7.1 Mr Huxley … time, 7.2] scored pencil
7.2 so that … instance— 7.3] ‘No’ added brown crayon, circled brown crayon
8.1 With regard … characters 8.3] scored brown crayon
Top of first page: ‘Pigeon flight’ under del ‘Polish [illeg]’ brown crayon; ‘18’12 red crayon, circled red crayon


The year is suggested by the discussion of domesticated fowls. CD was writing his chapter on fowls for Variation; he finished it on 16 May 1861 (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Tegetmeier’s enclosure has not been found.
The number of tail feathers in various varieties of fowl is discussed in Variation 1: 258–9.
Neither Parker nor the fancier’s periodical has been identified.
CD had formed a collection of newly hatched pigeons, preserved in alcohol, as a means of determining when the strongly marked characters of the adults first became manifest. See Correspondence vol. 6, letters to W. D. Fox, 15 March [1856], and to W. B. Tegetmeier, 24 June [1856], and letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, n. 10. See also Origin, pp. 445–6, and Variation 1: 178, 248–50.
Bernard Peirce Brent was a frequent contributor to both the Cottage Gardener and the Field on various subjects pertaining to domesticated birds and animals.
Tegetmeier’s paper on Antwerp carrier pigeons did not appear in the Natural History Review, of which Thomas Henry Huxley was chief editor.
See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 2 April [1861] and 14 April [1861]. CD had recently sent several letters to the Field, which were printed in ‘The Naturalist’ section in the column ‘Notes and questions on natural history’. See letters to the Field, [before 27 April 1861] and [before 4 May 1861].
See letter to the Field, [before 4 May 1861].
CD cited Tegetmeier’s information in Variation in the discussion of the effect of the remarkable bony protuberance of Polish fowls on their intelligence (see Variation 1: 257 and n. 58).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of dispersal of plants and animals.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sends some replies to CD’s queries and data on pigeon flights between Bordeaux and Verviers.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Muswell Hill
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 256
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3139,” accessed on 22 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9